Michael Toy is one of my imaginary friends, you know like the one you had as a kid, that you were convinced was real. Except that this one really is. No seriously, you gotta believe me!
Although his last name even suggests that i might have trouble convincing anyone of that. ‘Imaginary’ in that, though we have been ‘friends on Facebook’ and have at least 30 mutual friends [most of whom i actually real-life know] we have never met and yet somehow i managed to end up with his recently published poetry book, ‘Blame it on the huehuetenango’ – some type of spicy chili perhaps? – in my hands… and by ‘somehow’ i mean that he sent me a copy when i was trying my hardest to buy it off Amazon [what does this guy have against Amazon!??!]
i am only four poems in [i was using them as rewards while writing a bunch of talks yesterday] but every single one so far has deeply resonated with me and semi-blown me away, and so i really wanted to share a bunch of them with you [but you should seriously consider heading online and buying a copy – you will likely not regret it – just don’t let him know though or he’ll probably send you one!]
oh wait, i just remembered why i wanted a copy, it was for purely selfish reasons [of course] – Michael invited people to write scathing reviews of his poetry that we hadn’t read to stick on the back cover of his book. Gems like:
“Never been a fan of poetry. Still not.” – LAci Scott, retired super-heroine, not her real name
“I would have paid more if this was 2-ply” – Christian Waiau, I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you
And mine were not good [bad?] enough for the back cover, but they did get honourable mention inside the book…
So before you read this offering, know that this is what i had to say about it, before i read it:
“Toy manages to take a universal concept like poetry and through sheer mangling so horrific it would make Darth Vader send a letter of condolences, manages to create something even Poetry itself has been overheard saying, “I’m sorry, he’s not with us.” – Brett Fish Anderson
“Never before has such a wondrous breath of fresh air and deep and satisfying appreciation of life been so horribly interrupted , as the moment i started reading this book.” – Brett Fish Anderson
I think Michael’s explanation or intro to his poetry on his site explains them well:
‘It makes no sense to me that I ended up being a Christian Person. Somehow, I did. Thus began a quest, like Dorothy when she steps out of the fallen house, to figure out where I am, and what kind of crazy country have I been transported to.
Poetry has turned out to be a great medium for me to wish, wonder and wrestle with these issues. I can ask questions and suggest shapes and directions without having to murder my enemies.
To my friends (and if you are reading my poem website, you are my friends) for whom even the idea of “faith in Jesus” makes your skin crawl, I would like to say this. That sentiment lives in me too, and there is even some of that in these poems. Feel free to skip these poems, but also feel free to read them. I have had people try to convert me, and it was a horrible experience and I promise not to do that to you.’
So without further much ado about nothing, i give you, Michael Toy and ‘Blame i on the huetenango’:
i hold in my hands a tiny cup
of single origin espresso
from the mysterious land of huehuetenango
( … yes it is fair trade )
the first sip
the smoky flavor
reminds me of something …
they say the fires burn there
with a heatless flame
that never dies,
bathing you in pain
but never consuming.
they say this is reserved
for those not under the blood
who don’t acknowledge the lordship.
they tell me that i need to understand, that god has a reputation to protect
and can’t be seen in my company
him being perfect,
they tell me not to worry
god has donned human flesh,
like a hazmat suit.
walking bravely into the contaminated area
to bring us good news.
they say my remaining time can’t be predicted, it could be decades or microseconds
they tell me i need to make sure,
before that final surprise package,
to save myself by accepting the free offer of salvation.
they tell me once i die and finally see jesus as who he really is
full of glory and love and wisdom
without the witness of the crusades
the catholic pedophiles
the protestant slavers
or the nondenominational spectacularly coiffed televangelists
to cloud my vision.
when i finally see jesus as he really is,
it will be too late.
like trying to place bets on a horse race after it’s over.
before this once in a lifetime offer expires,
before the last grain of carefully measured grace falls in the hourglass,
before the winged monkeys come to bear me away to the castle of fire,
they tell me i need to declare that jesus is the lord of my life
they even drew for me a diagram
which represents my life
to show how pretty it would be
if i put the cross, right in the middle
like a child matching up the red cube
with the red square shaped hole
i will win the prize
i will be saved
and ooooooh lordy
the polyester hell you end up in after that salvation with
the unquenchable flames
of smiling people who are “fine” every sunday
and want to know how your “walk with the lord” is doing
as if it were a third person in the room
whose name nobody can remember
but is also “fine”
sip the crappy perked coffee
what’s for lunch?
how happy you will be to sing on that morning
of god’s glory and the beauty of the far heavens
where the lord sits waiting for you to die
so that all the ugly repulsive parts of you,
that you are learning to hate as much as he does,
will finally be gone and you will at last
be fit to be seen in the presence
i need to pray more
i need to read my bible more regularly
i need to hate the sin and love the sinner
i need to take detailed notes when listening to sermons
i need to memorize more scriptures,
including the gps coordinates of key passages
i need to get to work, be part of the family business
i need to see the angels helping me cross the street safely
i need to avoid listening to the false teachers i need to hold fast to the teachings of the apostles
i need to be ready to give answers about the hope within me
i need to understand the deep significance of the hebrew word for “know”
and the subtle distinctions between the five greek words for “love”
i need to let go and let god
i need to shine the light of jesus in a dark and desperate world
i need to inventory my spiritual gifts i need to discern my calling
i need to find an accountability partner
i need to keep piling more of this on, as i gain the strength,
growing in maturity,
ever vigilant ever striving
to not be like the hypocrites, the pharisees that jesus yelled at
who had a list detailing
exactly what god required of them
but couldn’t see him when he was right in front of them
inviting them to sit and eat and drink.
invited to a feast,
i wonder if i am even brave enough
to take a second sip.
[For more Michael Toy literary greatness, challenge and wrestlingmanship, take a look at his website, over here]